Saturday, June 18, 2011

TEACHER

1. one who causes another to know something



A writer of a blog that I read recently wrote about all that she learned over the course of the last year with her children.  This resonated with me as much as if a chord had been actually plucked in my heart.  As our school year wound down, I was focused on what A learned this year and whether it was enough.  I didn't stop to consider the very real value of all I learned through the process of being teacher in addition to mom, cheerleader, chauffeur, chef and guide.

So what did the teacher learn this year over the course of the Truss Academy for Girls' first year?

To relax and plan in equal parts.  In other words, to make a plan and then hold it very loosely rather than gripping it fiercely.  At the beginning of the school year, I was resistant to writing down any sort of plan for the week.  I had created a rough monthly plan (that went largely unheeded as the year went on), but I was worried that creating a weekly plan would lock us in.  Worse, I was worried I would be unable to relax and enjoy the ride when things inevitably did not go according to plan.  What changed?  At Advent, I began making a weekly plan for A because I was crafting a unit study for us from two other studies I'd found online.  It was easier for me to do all of the planning on the weekend, write it down and then go about our week.  At the time, I didn't see this as a big shift in our daily approach to homeschooling.  It was only when we finished the study and I attempted to quit the weekly plans that I found A really enjoyed having her week laid out before her on one piece of paper.  This taught me...

To be intentional and flexible.  Making a plan for each week allowed me to be more intentional, especially about our approach to history.   By looking ahead at what was coming, I was able to craft essay questions that helped A retain the subject matter far more than when she was taking notes and summarizing passages (both of which I still believe are important skills for collegiate success).  What I had to be careful of - as a Type A personality - was to still be flexible.  Sometimes I built flexibility into the plan, leaving blocks of time for us to go on a walk or visit a park.  Other times, we seized the moment and just moved part of one week's plan to the next week.  And all of this was possible because I was learning...

To listen.  I was beginning to listen to A's verbal and nonverbal cues.  Sometimes she told me what she wanted more of, other times I had to watch the way she approached a subject to know whether to move on or stop and graze for a while.  Alongside learning to listen to A, I was meeting monthly with a spiritual direction group, where I was learning to listen to God and to look for the ways he was working in my life.  How many subtle communications from God, friends and family have I missed over the years because I've been focused, rigid and preoccupied?  This year I learned to hear what was said and not brush it away in haste because it didn't fit my plan.  And I was able to listen because of an ongoing lesson about making time...

To care for myself.  One of my husband's main concerns about the plan to homeschool was summarized in one quiet question, "Can you do this and be nice to the rest of us?"  That was the question going into this experiment - was there enough of me to give?  Would I be exhausted at the end of each day, snapping at everyone, disappointed with myself?  I've learned a great deal about myself and my needs over the years.  I need time alone, I need a certain amount of quiet, I need space in my day to just be.  Would this be possible while homeschooling?  I found that it was not only possible, it was crucial.  Early on, I found that if I waited until lunch time to shower, I could retreat upstairs to read, bathe and rest.  This hour or so midday gave me enough fuel to get through my days. 

I'm not sure what next year will look like in many regards.  Will an hour of quiet be possible with two daughters to teach?  I'm not sure.  But if I remain relaxed and flexible while being intentional about caring for myself, I'm confident a new balance will emerge.  Because another thing I've learned this year is that...

I have something to offer my children as their teacher.  I'm reading a beautiful book about family right now and one idea that has immediately rung true with me is that we should give our children ourselves.  I don't mean we should forgo who we are in order to help them become who they are meant to be.  It's the opposite of that: it helps them become who they are meant to be if they understand who their parents really are.  And I am both learner and teacher.  I love learning.  Love, love, love it.  It excites me like few other things can.  I get an almost physical jolt upon learning a new fact, making a connection, seeing a link.  This is part of who I am and it's a huge blessing to get to share that part of me with my daughters.  Sharing it with them doesn't mean they're going to feel and experience learning the same way I do.  It does mean they will know and understand me better - as their mother, as a person.

I told my husband part way through the school year that I think of all the jobs I've ever had - in marketing, business development, non-profit program management, non-profit administration and development - homeschooling is the one that uses nearly every gift I have.  I am their teacher, but I am learning so much as we go along.  And I couldn't be more grateful.

1 comment:

Misha Leigh. said...

I loved this: "Can you do this and be nice to the rest of us?"

I SO relate to that question. : ) It made me laughs but only because it hits home! And I love your closing paragraph - I completely agree. It sounds like you and I actually have a very similar work background. But nothing has challenged me like this job (both my brain, body and choices) and nothing uses as much of who I am made to be. It's both fulfilling and excruciatingly exhausting. : )

Loved your take on what you've learned - I agree with so many of them, too.